[Wally Hersom of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization holds a Bigfoot cast made from a footprint in Walla Walla, Wash. The group led a search in North Carolina last weekend.]
ALBEMARLE, N.C. -- Around 300 people gathered last weekend at the Eldorado Outpost in Montgomery County on what many might call a fool's errand - a search for Bigfoot.
The expedition into the Uwharrie National Forest to hunt for the elusive creature was led by longtime Bigfoot researcher Michael Greene, Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization leader Matt Moneymaker and a team from the cable and satellite TV channel Animal Planet.
"This is about the crowd I expected," Greene said. "We're going to assemble out there and spread out as a group."
While most members of the crowd had shown up to volunteer for the search, a number of individuals were caught up in the search by accident.
Brandon Tysinger and Joey Boslet from Calabash and Scott McKinney from the Myrtle Beach area were camping in the Uwharries and heard unexplained sounds outside their tent Friday night. They thought it was strange, but did not connect it with Bigfoot until they found out about the search on Saturday, they said.
"We pulled up at the gas station, and all of a sudden, we're looking for Bigfoot," Tysinger said. "We want to know what in the world it was in the woods last night, so we thought we'd go, too."
"We just kind of showed up," McKinney said.
Others in the crowd showed up for entertainment or to confirm their belief or disbelief in the legendary creature.
"I'm here for the fun of it," said Brittney Huneycutt of Albemarle. "This is a once in a lifetime thing."
"I'm very skeptical," Adam Loflin, of Norwood, said. "I'm leaning toward the fact that he's not out there."
Before the search began, Moneymaker addressed the group gathered at the outpost.
"We're going to do an evidence search in a grid," he said. "We doubt you're going to run across Bigfoot out there, but we are going to be looking for some evidence. There's been a lot of sightings in the Uwharrie National Forest."
The researchers, film crew and volunteers left the outpost at around 3:15 p.m. and walked approximately a quarter of a mile down the road to a field at the edge of the forest, where Moneymaker gave further instructions. He encouraged the volunteers to look for signs of Bigfoot, such as footprints, hair samples, broken tree branches and stick structures.
James Ackerman, of the Badin area, discovered tracks by a shallow creek that looked almost human.
"I was just jumping over the creek, and as soon as I jumped, I saw a footprint, and I yelled, 'Footprint,'" Ackerman said.
Animal Planet researcher Cliff Barackman was called in to look at the footprint.
"A lot of people would see this as the front part and back part of the foot, but I think we're looking at a quadripedal animal here," Barackman said. "I think this is probably a deer."
When Moneymaker arrived on the scene, he disagreed and said that it was possible that the prints were made by something else.
A little further down the stream, a deer carcass was found. The researchers gathered around the carcass discovered gnaw marks on the bones.
According to Barackman and Moneymaker, deer is Bigfoot's main source of food.
"That's exactly what a deer kill looks like," Moneymaker said of the carcass.
"A Sasquatch [Bigfoot] will grab the front leg and break it. The break has a particular look to it, and that's exactly what I saw there."
In the end, Bigfoot didn't make an appearance, but the show goes on. In this case, the six-part Animal Planet series is planned to air in the fall.